The Conservatives have lost control of one of their most controversial councils after a defection.
Sury Khastri left the Tories to sit as an independent on Barnet LBC after being deselected in the Mill Hill ward.
His action means the council’s political balance is now 31 Conservatives, 30 Labour, one Liberal Democrat and one independent.
The Tories only narrowly held Barnet at the last elections in 2014, which came soon after they controversially signed two major contracts together worth nearly £500m for the outsourcing firm Capita to take over its back office and regulatory services. This was one of the largest such deals by any council.
Labour hopes to take outright control of the borough for the first time this May. It was run by a joint Labour and Lib Dem administration from 1994 to 2002 but has otherwise been Tory controlled since its creation.
Although it opposed signing the contracts with Capita, Labour’s local website makes no reference to seeking to change or revoke these.
Elections expert Sir John Curtice said in a piece for LGC this week that the Conservatives faced potential heavy losses in May in London given the capital’s strong support for remaining in the European Union and its high proportions of young and ethnic minority voters.
“London has long been becoming increasingly difficult territory for the Conservatives,” he said. “Brexit has simply added another twist to that tale.”